Rumana Shams Rabbani was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, one of the poorest and most populated countries in the world. She was exposed to a severe lack of social-determinants-of-health interventions resulting in poor or no access to housing, contaminated water, lack of food, minimum or no access to medical care, and witnessed poor mothers and their children dying on the streets of Dhaka.
Rumana is a Person with Lived Experience (PWLE) who sits at the intersectionality of a woman of color born to immigrant parents experiencing racism, a survivor of Domestic Violence, and a single parent graduate student. Rumana has taken her cycle of victimization and transformed into a source of inspiration, resiliency, and empowerment. CHW advocacy has anchored her towards regaining her identity and agency, which in turn became an intrinsic asset that shifted her pain into purpose rather than a barrier. Thus, this lived + shared experience has been a significant influence for her passion and partnership with CHWs who are embedded in creating equitable and just systems.
Rumana received her Master's in Healthcare Administration (MHA) focusing on strategic management. Due to her continued interest to be an activist-researcher/community-practitioner, Rumana had a desire to learn how to apply evidence-based strategies for uptake of community-based interventions and be a change activist alongside community-based CHWs. Rumana is currently a Doctoral student in the Health Policy & Management Department minoring in Implementation Science at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rumana is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar (RWJF HPRS) where she co-designs as the Principal Investigator (PI) with CHWs and Racial Justice Leaders using systems and design thinking, improvement science, and implementation science methodologies. The multi-ethnic and mutli-racial codesign team applies Popular Education behaviors and Activist Research as a foundational theory/framework to advance the "groundwater" issue of institutional racism for historically marginalized communities. Since 2017, she has been the Chair of the pre-APHA CHW Summit. Her RWJF HPRS dissertation work provides the aims and methodological approach for the 2022 pre-APHA CHW Dismantling Structural Racism & Classism National Workshop co-designed and co-led by CHWs.
Rumana has been the PI for the past eight years focusing on sustainable and equitable pay for community-based CHW programs. She is the Chair for the APHA CHW Section Policy Committee, where she facilitates/co-leads the development of the policy proposal for "CHWs as Racial Equity Advocates and Pathways for Training." Locally, in North Carolina, Rumana is the Co-Chair for the NC CHW Advisory Board and is on the workgroup to co-design the NC CHW certification / training program with a focus on racial equity and violence.
She is the Evaluator/ Data analyst and co-lead for the Formative Evaluation workgroup for the Racial Equity Learning & Action Community, Planning & Implementation team where she partners with people-with-lived experience impacted by racial inequities for effective implementation, evaluation, and scale-up of national racial equity initiatives. Rumana serves on the Organization Team with the Collaborative for Anti-Racism in Dissemination and Implementation Science (CARDIS) national collaborative led by the University of Washington focusing on anti-racist Black practices in the Implementation Science field. She serves as the co-President for the Implementation Science Student Group at UNC-CH. Rumana is leading a racial equity pilot with Manufacturing Extension Partnerships in NC. She is working with the National Emerging Special Pathogen Training and Education Center partnered with the CDC, Emory, and University of Nebraska as a consultant with the Wandersman Center specializing in quality improvement and Technical Assistance for Covid-19 services and formative evaluation for regional centers across the country. Rumana serves as a stakeholder with the Community Based Workforce Alliance and is on the Advisory Board for Sokoto House.
Rumana views her adversity as a driver to make an impactful difference from a micro to macro level: in her own life, her daughter's life, and on a systems level. This relentless purpose driven by her core values of empathy, proximity, and holding tension in life-giving ways has transformed into passion for her work to address racial inequities. Rumana's lived experience of trauma has grounded her to turn victimization into empowerment by advocating for CHWs, and in effect advancing racial equity for historically marginalized communities.